Several years ago Toronto-based insurance company Foresters found itself in a difficult situation. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), a government body that regulates federally incorporated financial institutions in Canada, had recently mandated that insurance companies comply with any Canadian legislation applicable to their businesses.
"OSFI didn't say insurance legislation," said Stephen Cheeseman, assistant vice president and associate general counsel at Foresters. "It said any legislation that might impact your business."
"While people knew there were laws around our business before we went through this, I don't think they were truly aware of the importance of compliance and the risks involved," Cheeseman explained. "This has been an incredible exercise in awareness. It has really brought the compliance process into perspective for us."
Experts at the session warned, however, that implementing a compliance program doesn't mean your work is over. Corporate behaviors are constantly coming under government investigators' microscope, and regulations are constantly in a state of flux. To safeguard their companies from investigation, senior managers must constantly test their internal controls and adjust their programs accordingly.
"When you educate your employees, they become part of the process," said Amita Kent, vice president of legal affairs at Schering Canada, a division of Schering-Plough Corp., in Toronto and co-chair of the forum. "At the end of the day, we developed an action plan that really works for Schering-Plough worldwide."